By Sylvia Smith
When married couples think of intimacy, their first thought is often sexual intimacy. Being physically intimate is one of the great benefits of marriage, but there is another vital type of intimacy that couples need to pay attention to: emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is the glue that holds a marriage together. Without it, over time the relationship takes on an empty feeling and the couple becomes distant from each other. This can happen in marriages that haven’t understood that sex and love are not enough to keep things on track. If this is your situation, know that it doesn’t have to stay this way. Couples who share a commitment to making their shared life richer have a better chance of developing emotional intimacy.
Constructing emotional intimacy in your married life is not easy, but it is worth the effort. Here are five techniques that you and your partner can use to help increase the emotional intimacy factor in your married life.
- Know yourself and present your true self to your partner at all times. It is impossible to be emotionally intimate with your spouse if you are constantly presenting a false version of who you are to them. How can your partner know you if you are not transparent with your feelings, needs and desires?
Make knowing yourself a priority so that this is the person that shows up in the marriage at all times. If you pretend to be someone you are not, you cannot expect your spouse to give you, the authentic you, what you need to thrive emotionally. An example of this might be the wife who is sad or depressed, but does not want to add to her husband’s worries so she pretends that everything is fine. But because she has not revealed to her spouse that she is suffering, this deprives him of the chance to help support her. She has now lost an opportunity for building emotional intimacy with her husband, all because she feels the need to portray someone she is not. Her husband has also lost an opportunity to deepen his emotional intimacy with his wife, because he has no idea what she is experiencing since she has covered up her depression with a happy persona.
- Start from a baseline of accepting (and loving) who your spouse is. Be each other’s compassionate space.
Two people who truly love and accept each other, can foster emotional intimacy in their relationship. Make sure that you communicate this message of acceptance to your partner. Practice a lifestyle of empathy and protection towards each other so that both of you feel like you have each others back, no matter what. Show your partner that they can be themselves completely in your presence and you will always accept and love them. When they come to you expressing a need, listen attentively to what they are saying, and ask how you can best help them.
- Identify your own emotional needs so that you may communicate these to your partner. This exercise may be more difficult for a male partner, as many men were raised to ignore or repress any strong emotion they may be feeling. However, working with a couples counselor can help a man accept there is nothing unmanly about being in touch with his emotions.
A good way to share your emotional needs with you partner is by using “I” messages. “I feel validated when I know you are” followed by an action verb such as :
- Seeing me
- Listening to me
- Encouraging me
- Taking care of me
- Understanding me
- Accepting me
- Desiring me
- Touching me
- Solving problems with me
Avoid “You” messages as they can really hinder the communication process. Sentences like “you always or you never” always gets the other person in a defensive mode. Refrain from using:
- Support me
- Encourage me
- Help me
- Understand me
Or you always-
- Disappoint me
- Demoralize me
- Dishearten me
Married couples can do an emotional-intimacy building exercise by writing out their own lists and sharing them with each other, based on the above.
- Practice acceptance, but also practice disagreements. In point two we talked about the relationship between fully accepting someone and emotional intimacy. But acceptance doesn’t mean we forfeit the right to disagree with our spouse. To the contrary, how you manage a disagreement can be a wonderful opportunity for working on your emotional intimacy.
When non-emotionally-intimate couples have disagreements, they either turn and walk away or fight until someone gives up or is too tired to argue any longer.
But emotionally intimate couples, when they have different point of views, they share them with each other openly without hesitation. They also have disagreements but they handle them differently, in healthy way. They accept and appreciate each other’s opinions rather than seeing them as a threat.
Disagreements can deepen emotional intimacy because opposing viewpoints mean we are being honest about who we are and what we think. And remember point one: to cultivate emotional intimacy, you need to be the authentic you.
- Recognize that building emotional intimacy requires energy and time. Emotionally intimate marriages are not built in a day, nor do they happen without some effort on the part of the couple. Bonding requires time spent together. Couples that lead separate lives will find they know little about what the other is feeling and grow distant from each other. Many of these marriages will fail.
Set aside time each day to show your spouse your appreciation for who they are and what they bring to your married life. It doesn’t need to be more than a few minutes, but it is part of the time and energy investment necessary to continually weave the bond of emotional intimacy.
Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.